The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Anemone de Caen Corms – Coronaria

Let the Anemone Mr Fokker be attendants to the Bride. Her simple pure-white beauty will shine even more when surrounded by their dramatic shades. Anemone Coronaria’s exquisite poppy-like flower emerges from a bridal wreath of golden stamens round a green centre. This alone sets her apart from her companions with their big black cup centres. All these showy varieties are among the extremely popular French cultivars that originated in the De Caen area of Normandy. Often called florists’ anemones, they make extremely good cut flowers, with Anemone Coronaria Bride, obviously, a wonderful choice for weddings in late spring or early summer. So say the people at Farmer Gracy where I bought these knobbly corms. They look very strange now soaking overnight and waiting to be planted into a large patio pot.

I already have a few Anemone planted here and there around the garden which have accumulated over the years but this time I intend to keep them a bit more protected. Previously they have just been popped in amongst other things but compared with the number planted they are very few and far between. I am hoping for a good show from these 40 corms. The new corms went into their pot this morning 15th March. The corms took about a month to show. This morning, 17th April, Is my Dad’s birthday so I will use that day as a marker in future to expect the Anemones to appear. Symbolically they are blue and white, the colours of, WBA, his favourite football team.

Cosmos Purity

Sow Cosmos seed from March to May in seed compost and place the seed tray inside a polythene bag. Keep the soil damp but not wet. Do not exclude light as this aids germination which usually takes 7-15 days. When seedlings are large enough to handle transplant into 3″ pots and grow them on in cooler conditions until large enough to plant outdoors. When Cosmos plants are well grown and all risk of frost has passed acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days. Transplant outdoors in full sun in any moist, well drained soil 18″ apart. Pinch out the growing tip of each stem when transplanting to encourage stems to branch and produce more flowers. Deadheading will encourage new flowers. Information from T&M.

Today, 11th April, I have sown seeds of this elegant looking Cosmos, Purity onto some damp compost. I have also sprinkled a few seeds directly here and there in the garden so I am hopeful of getting some good results this year.

Calla Lily Rhizomes

The calla lily grows from bulbs, more properly called rhizomes, and will, as most bulbs do, spread by producing even more bulbs. These bulbs can be divided and replanted in another location. The calla lily is a very hardy genus that will grow in more or less any soil as long as the climate is humid enough. In many of the countries where the calla lily originates it is thought of as a weed and is cut down to make way for agriculture. The calla lily can also be propagated through its seeds but it takes a little more time than just digging up the extra bulbs. I am sure that I shall try. I can’t resist seeds.

I unpacked these rhizomes today and was amazed at how big they were. I had thought that they were expensive at £3.95 for each bulb but having seen them I am filled with confidence of their success. The more I read about these fascinating plants the more I want to know. I had debated about whether to plant each bulb in a separate pot but decided in the end to put all three in a large 40cm patio pot. The directions on the pack say plant in rich potting soil and water sparingly until growth starts. Keep indoors until April and keep frost free. The three varieties that I have  planted are Auckland, a beautiful pink, Schwarzwalder, a deep almost black maroon and Albomaculata, white. I can see me buying more of these as they come in an amazing array of colours and are said to have a long flowering period. As with all bulbs grown in containers the soil needs to be changed either every year or every other year.

When grown in pots for keeping indoors the compost should be kept moist and plants should be given a weak solution of liquid plant food every three weeks while they are in growth. The best place to site them is in a west-facing window, where the air temperature does not rise much above 21°C. A south-facing window may be too hot when the sun is at its strongest in summer. Remove the flowers when they start to fade. When the plant has finished blooming, allow the leaves to turn brown, and reduce watering. Stop watering completely once all the foliage has died back.

Francis Masson, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1741. In the 1760s, he went to work at Kew Gardens as an under-gardener, and was sent abroad to hunt for new plants. He sailed with James Cook on HMS Resolution to South Africa, landing in October 1772. Masson stayed there for three years, during which time he sent back to England more than 500 species of plant – including  Zantedeschia .  Information from Graham Clarke.

The red lily beetle, Lilioceris lilii,  loves the delicious lily foliage and will quickly decimate your plants. The only real answer is to seek them out and kill them. being a vivid scarlet red, they are easily spotted.  You should also look out for the eggs on the undersides of the leaves and the grubs.

Calla Lily – Zantedeschia

I have bought three bulbs of the Calla Lily. I am hoping to have them situated close to the pond. I know nothing about them except that for me they are expensive. I have read that they multiply annually so I hope I live long enough to see that. Initially, until the pond area is better prepared, I intend to grow these beautiful flowers in a pot. These bulbs don’t need to be dug up and stored over winter and I am glad about that. Overwintering of bulbs is one of the drawbacks of growing them I think,

The calla lily was originally found in tropical marshlands, which means it is a very thirsty plant that will not tolerate dry periods or neglect from the gardener. Either water the plant regularly during hot summer days or plant the calla lily where it can get lots of water without having to be in wet soil. If there is a small pond in your garden it will be perfect to plant calla lilies close to it  just remember that it needs to get to the water, since an artificial pond is not automatically in contact with the earth surrounding it. If this simple request of the calla lily is fulfilled, it will fill your garden. The calla lily is a hardy plant with very little needs but there are some nutritional considerations you might want to try. Just because calla lilies are sometimes considered weeds in their country of origin it does not mean that callas are hardy everywhere. However, if you give your calla lilies a little extra time and a weekly feed the result will show immediately with lots of beautiful flowers stretching up from the healthy plant.









The calla lily or zantedeschia is a genus of twenty-eight different species all native to the southern parts of Africa with a tropical climate from South Africa up to Africa aligned with the northern point of Madagascar. The genus calla was originally named by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus but as it became apparent that the genus needed to be split up the German botanist Karl Koch named the new genus after his fellow botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi from Italy. It became a major hit in Europe and is still very popular as a wedding or funeral flower.


Asiatic Lily Double Sensation – Lilium

Asiatic Lily Double Sensation from Farmer Gracy  has fantastic colour and lovely ruffled petals. It is perfect grown in a container for use on the patio or plant the bulbs in the border where they’ll come up every year. Lilium Double Sensation is one of the most exclusive Asiatic Lilies available on the market. Asiatic Lily Double Sensation is known for its double flowers which create an amazing impact once in full bloom. Planting this delicate and rare Lily variety in pots makes a nice and compact show as the flower size of double flowered Lilies is much bigger than other regular Asiatic Lilies. Double flowering Lilies are very rare and it often takes many years to cultivate and offer them on the market. Lilies are perfect for combining with other perennials, grasses or shrubs. They like to have cool, nourished roots whilst their heads reach for the sun but choose shallow-rooting plants to prevent them sulking at the competition for both nutrients and moisture.

I received these three Lily bulbs as a free gift with a delivery of bulbs from Farmer Gracy in the Netherlands. I have planted them in an existing pot of Violas. There was a space in the middle of the pot and the violas were gathered around the outside so I made a space for them. After reading up about them I think that maybe they will need a pot of their own as they will be bigger than I thought they would be. Update – I did move these bulbs to a bigger pot of their own and already green shoots are showing.

Probably the easiest to grow and hardiest of all the lilies, Asiatic Lilies are usually the first ones to bloom, flowering between June and August. Asiatic Lilies also have the widest range of colours but, unfortunately, most do not have a fragrance. Blooms vary in style, usually in terms of how they display their flowers. Some even hang their beautiful heads in a way reminiscent of pretty paper lanterns. Asiatic Lilies should be planted in full sun in soil that drains well. The bulbs don’t do well in soggy soil.

Freesia Mixed Colour Bulbs

I have planted twenty Freesia bulbs today in a large terracotta patio pot. I put them into Miracle Gro All Purpose compost. I have never grown these flowers before as I had always thought them to be difficult but this year I’m giving them a try. I have bought them in the past as cut flowers and love the perfume.

Cultivation has meant that Freesias are now available in more colours than the original wild South African yellow and white ones. These delicate, beautiful and fragrant flowers now come in shades of red, pink, orange, lavender and even bicolour. Excellent long-lasting cut flowers, Freesias give their blooms an uncommon display platform by bending the flowering tips of the 1′ stalks that each support about 8 funnel-shaped flowers, about 90 degrees and presenting the upward-facing blooms horizontally. Freesia bulbs like soil that has good drainage and prefer sunny places to grow. Freesias flower in late summer and autumn.

A bit of a challenge to grow but well worth the effort, these cottage garden favourites produce sprays of fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers at the ends of arching, branched stems in summer. A favourite with the florists as they are excellent cut flowers. They look superb planted in a mix border or in patio pots. So say These bulbs were planted on 11th March and today 1st April, are pushing through the soil.

Senga Sengana Strawberry – Rambling Cascade

Today, 11th March, I have planted ten Strawberry Senga Sengana bought as bare root plants. I have read good things about this variety and look forward to tasting. I am not sure if I should expect fruit in the first year or whether I will have to wait until next year. I live in hope.

The flavour of this variety is exceptional. The large fruits are sweet and very juicy.  This is the perfect variety of strawberry for growing in hanging baskets or window boxes.  Whilst no strawberry can climb Rambling Cascade can be trained and tied into a trellis. They are of course also suitable for open ground growing and is a fantastic variety for those considering growing in matted rows. Recommended by the RHS to be an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. Senga Sengana is self fertile and can be grown in pots or open ground. Information from Victoriana Nursery.

Begonia – London

I have planted six begonia tubers into two large pots of moist compost and shall keep them indoors until the last frost has passed. They are a collection of six red and white double Begonias from Farmer Gracy in the Netherlands called London. I have read that Begonias can be propagated with a leaf cutting so I am looking forward to trying that.

Nothing could be more striking than a fire and ice combination of showy red and white double Begonias. Wonderful on their own, these two colours are a match made in heaven when planted together. Give them a prominent position as a focal point in your garden or combine them in pots as a gorgeous feature. Information and image from Farmer Gracy.


Pineberry – White Strawberry

I bought five bare roots of these unusual strawberries and after giving them a drink and a rest I have planted them into a wooden wine box to grow on before finding them a final bed in the garden.

Pineberry is an albino strawberry cultivar with a pineapple-like flavour, white colouring, and red seeds. Pineberry is based on the original strawberry hybrids that arose in cultivation in Europe, with recent selective breeding to improve the plants. It is a hybrid of Fragaria chiloensis, originating in South America, and Fragaria virginiana, originating in North America, the same parentage as the garden strawberry Fragaria × ananassa. The first commercial cultivation occurred in 2010 in the Netherlands and Belgium.